Self-perceived age can affect a person’s overall health status and longevity. A research letter published by JAMA Internal Medicine shows that there is lower death rate among older people who feel three or more years younger than their chronological age, as opposed to those who felt older than their actual age. Consequently, an individual’s perception about his or her age is reflected on results of assessments of health, perceived and actual physical limitations, and general wellbeing in later life.
A background study mentioned in the published letter provided evidence that a greater number of older people feel younger than their actual age. Isla Rippon and Andrew Steptoe of the University College of London studied the link between self-perceived age and mortality.
Of the 6,489 respondents with an average age of 65.8 years old, only 4.8% felt that they were at least a year older than their actual age. Most of the respondents felt three to ten years younger.
The researchers followed up on the respondents eight years later and a little over 14% of the respondents from the group who felt years younger than their actual age have already died; 24% from the group who felt a year older than their age and 18% for those who felt their age have already passed away. The results of the study encouraged the researchers to further understand the factors that led to such differences.
Diverse health habits (more than scientists have identified), greater resilience, and even the will to survive are among the possible factors that contribute to such differences.
Given the study’s results, the authors wrote that individuals who feel older than their actual age could be targeted with interventions that promote positive health behaviors and attitudes toward aging. Self-perceived age could potentially be changed and interventions can be carried out to induce a shift in perspective.
On a related note, another study conducted by the CDC found that more and more people are living past 100 in the US.
While medical alert systems are really useful devices when it comes to independent living at an elderly age, maintaining great health and physical vitality at an older age is just as important. Below are some related articles on factors that contribute to good health and longevity in old age.
For more insights on healthy aging, check out the book review on “Paths to Healthy Aging” by geriatrician and medical professor Mehrdad Ayati MD.
See how 3 seniors stay young at heart in this video.